A crowd of hundreds of Lebanese people cheered for Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, as he performed at a concert in Beirut last Saturday. Evidently aware that the majority of his fans wanted to listen to Cat Steven’s pop songs, the show was a compromise between his own needs and the needs of the audience: half devoted to Steven’s well-known songs and half to the melodies composed in the decades after he embraced Islam.
The Arab Spring took on a different form in Islam’s concert as he sang about love, reconciliation and freedom of nations. On the day of the show, Islam explained to Al Arabiya that the uprising of the Arabs reminded him of the sixties when people all around the world were marching for peace. To embrace this new movement, Islam wrote “My People”, a song which tackles the issue of people’s right to freedom and the need to take decisions without hurting the others. He added that this song is dedicated to all the nations who are seeking freedom and liberty peacefully.
The musician’s fans rallied overnight to be able to listen to his music that Islam says can help bridge cultural gaps. Islam commented in his interview with Al Arabiya that music is a powerful art that plays the role of connecting people as it is not restricted by boundaries, color or nationality. He stated that music is a part of human civilization that we can use to help people to come together, explaining that when words coincide with beautiful music it can be a very powerful tool to unite people under same topic: love. He added “when the audience comes to the show, you see Muslim and non-Muslim, old and young gathered to listen to a universal art.”
The singer, who left his career at the peak of his stardom in the seventies to devote himself to humanitarian causes, has gradually made a return to music. Islam revealed to Al Arabiya that the incident of 9/11 acted as the trigger behind his come back to music. Seeing escalating tension between people across the world, Islam wanted to make a contribution towards reconciliation and felt the urge to pursue this ambition through his greatest passion: art. He wanted to channel his passion and share his experiences of tolerance with a world that was increasingly becoming divided.
“In 2001 when 9/11 happened the world looked like it was going to explode and I realized that there is a chance for me perhaps to come back and sing about peace and try to bring people together again with love and wisdom,” he said.
Islam’s performances have inspired people across the globe to listen to music that promotes messages of love and peace, messages which are often sorely lacking in today’s turbulent times.